If you have dreamed of finding a way to save up enough vacation time and money to finally explore the beautiful regions of the western part of the United States and Canada, one of the biggest frustrations is choosing where to visit. The Grand Canyon looks beautiful, but so do the Cascade Mountains in Washington. The problem, of course, is that they´re separated by several thousand miles.

Instead of choosing one destination and flying there and flying back, it would be a much better use of your time to plan a trip to visit several different national parks during a west coast road trip. While you might not be able to fit both the Grand Canyon and Glacier National Park in Montana into the same trip, it is entirely possible to see several ecologically and geographically distinct regions during one trip.

There are dozens of different routes that you could take, but our favorite and most recommended trips is to drive up the Pacific Coast from northern California into western Canada. Below we offer a suggested itinerary and some needed tips to make a road trip of the lifetime.

How to Plan for Your Trip?

Obviously, you first need to see how much time you´ll be able to get off from work. There is huge difference in how far you´ll be able to travel and what you´ll be able to see if you only have a week of vacation as compared to three weeks. While a longer time frame might be most desirable, not everyone has the needed flexibility. Below we offer an itinerary for a three week trip. However, you easily break the trip into several smaller segments if you feel that three weeks is out of your possibility.

You´ll also need to consider your budget. If you plan on visiting several national parks, it´s probably a good idea to get a National Park Pass (available at every national park). While this is a larger upfront investment, it will save you money if you plan to be visiting several parks. Also, bring quality camping gear if you plan on avoiding the hotels.

Overview of the Itinerary

Week 1: Fly into San Francisco and spend three days exploring Yosemite National Park. From Yosemite drive North to Redwood National Park to enjoy some of the most pristine old growth forest in the United States.

Week 2: Drive from Redwood National park to Crater Lake in Oregon and hike the rim trail around the U.S.´s most spectacular volcanic lake. Then drive up the beautiful Oregon Coast until you get to Mount Rainier National Park in Washington. If you´re up for the adventure, consider hiking the perpetually snowcapped peak of Mount Rainier

Week 3: After a quick drive up to the North Cascades in northern Washington, cross the border into Canada and head west to visit Banff National Park and Jasper National Park where you´ll end your trip

Review of Some of the Places to Visit

This road trip will take you into some of the most beautiful, pristine areas of the North American Rocky Mountains. While it is obviously a long trip, the distances between each stopping point are reasonably spaced meaning that you´ll be spending much more time out in Nature as opposed to stuck in a car.

Yosemite National Park and the Redwoods

The first stop on our route takes us into one of the U.S.´s oldest and most appreciated parks. The geography of Yosemite is simply spectacular, and you can even enjoy adrenaline-racing mountain climbing trips up the sheer granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome. While we can’t cover all of the different things to do in this massive National Park.

The Redwood forests of northern California take you into a completely different terrain. Instead of the wide open panoramic vistas of Yosemite, you´ll find yourself enclosed in some of the thickest old growth forests with massive, thousand year old trees.

Cosmo Dream Yosemite National Park

Crater Lake and Mount Rainier

Crater Lake is a massive formation created by a massive volcanic eruption millions of years ago. The hike around the rim trail of Crater Lake offers spectacular views of the lake from different angles.

Mount Rainier offers one of the most rewarding mountain hikes in the world. The perpetually snow capped peak of Mount Rainier might require some technical gear to get you to the top safely. Nonetheless, the pristine forests and pure mountain lakes leading up to the massive peak are well worth the hike.

Crater Lake National Park Oct 05, 2014

Mount Rainier National Park

Banff and Jasper National Parks

Once you make your way into Canada, you definitely will want to check out two of the treasures of the Canadian Rockies. Banff National Park and Jasper National Park both offer some of the most spectacular scenery of the Northern Rockies. The mountain lakes of Banff National park are similar in color to an island in the Caribbean.

At Jasper National Park, you can explore everything from the glaciers of the Colombian icefield to steaming hot springs. This UNESCO world heritage site is also one of the best places for wildlife siting as you should be able to easily find everything from caribou to black bears to bighorn sheep.

Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada


Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park (Alberta, Canada)

Plan Your Trip Now

Even if you only have a few days of vacation each year, instead of spending that time being lazy or visiting the same state park you´ve been to 100 times already, find a cheap ticket and explore any one of these fantastic natural areas. If you would like to learn about more Wild Adventures, see our friends at for more info.

This article submitted by: Scott Moses ©2017

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